Adopting a Measure of Courage

The next entry in our courageous moments essay contest is from Lea Wait, whose actions in the middle of a thunderstorm changed everything. As part of this contest, a commenter at random wins an iPod nano, so join the conversation with your insights on Lea’s experiences.

Lea Wait

The Telephone Call That Changed My Life

In 1977 I was 29 and my world was falling apart. My marriage had ended several years earlier, leaving me with heavy debts. My doctor had told me I would probably never be able to have children. The man in my life and I had just broken up. The corporation I worked for had just transferred me from New York City to the suburbs – a place I knew no one, where everyone was married, and where being the only woman manager in my large department felt much more uncomfortable than it had when at least I could escape at lunch hour and walk through the city streets.

Now instead of living in Greenwich Village my home was an apartment over a bookstore where I knew no one and no one knew me. Two years before, I’d applied to adopt a child as a single woman, but had been turned down for American children under the age of 14. I was too young, I was white, I was divorced, I wasn’t Catholic, I wasn’t black. There was always a reason. I didn’t feel old enough to parent a fourteen-year old. When international adoption opened up to singles in 1977 my agency used me as a test case with the government of Korea. Eleven months later they, too, turned me down.

I joined an adoptive parent group in New Jersey, hoping to find friends there. Instead, I found couples who saw me as a competitor. One woman asked, “Why don’t you just go out to a bar and get pregnant?” I paid my dues, but sat alone at meetings. I had a completed homestudy from my New York agency. I was serious about adopting. I wasn’t looking for a white baby. I was looking for a child.

Then, late one night, in the middle of a thunderstorm, my telephone rang. Someone from the adoptive parent group had heard of a woman in Thailand who was able to “find” children. She worked with singles. Was I interested?

I took her name. Now, I’d been involved with adoption for a while. I knew the rules. I knew you should work through an agency, not through a facilitator or lawyer. This was a facilitator. I knew I shouldn’t even think about taking to her.

I called her the next morning. She said that, yes, she could find me a four or five year old girl, if I sent her $5,000 dollars to cover legal expenses. I knew I might never see her, the money, or a child. But $5,000 was exactly the amount I’d managed to save.

I sent it to her.

No; it wasn’t a wise decision. Yes; I spent the next twenty years doing adoption counseling and telling other prospective parents not to do what I did. But – did I adopt a child from Thailand?

Alicia Yupin arrived seven months after that telephone call. She weighed 36 pounds and was 36 inches tall, and she was beautiful. She was the first of the four children I adopted as a single parent; her sisters were born in Korea, India, and Hong Kong, and, yes, they all came through agencies.

Alicia is now 40, and the mother of three children of her own. (All together, I have eight grandchildren.) Was I crazy to send that $5,000 to someone I didn’t know, who didn’t have all the right papers in order? It took almost five years and many sleepless nights before Alicia’s adoption was finalized and legal.

Yes. I was crazy. But I took a chance, and, for a little girl from Thailand and for me, I did the right thing. My decision changed both of our lives.

Is sending $5000 to a stranger across the planet an act of courage? Of faith? Of foolishness? Weigh in below, and read the previous entries here.

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Author of the Swift Investigations, Mall Cop, and Readaholics mystery series. Ex-Air Force intelligence officer, now a full-time writer. Spying was easier.

12 thoughts on “Adopting a Measure of Courage”

  1. Lea, you are a brave, wonderful, amazing woman. It was a fantastic leap of faith that paid off in such wealth for you. This story has moved me to tears and that is not an easy thing to achieve. Bless you and yours, what a wonderful family you’ve made for yourself.

  2. WOW Cannot believe you had the courage to do that. I know I never would. So glad it worked for you and your beautiful family!

  3. Lea,
    I love love love this story. I am imagining the joy for you and all your children. Yes, what you did took courage and faith and sometimes that all we have in life. Many folks squander $5,000. on things but you invested in a lovely giving life for yourself and your darling girl. May many others be inspired to become parents or parents again and again. Your story is exactly the reason I love Facebook. I’ll share it with my family and friends. Love, Kathy Handley

  4. Kathy, Tess, and Mare — Thank you so much for your support! Until Laura mentioned writing about a courageous moment in life, I really didn’t think about my adopting as courageous. Although I certainly knew writing that check was taking a big risk! Adopting was the right choice for me, and I’d known it for a long time. It just took a long time to happen. Luckily, my second, third and, yes, fourth, daughters came home in, if not more conventional, than at least more reliable, ways!

  5. You might of been crazy but more people should be like that.To sen that amount of money was a great act of faith but look how well it turned out.4 girls.maybe I should have done that when I had my 4th son.Lucky you and lucky girls and lucky hubby.. this story brought tears but good kind, thanks for sharing. Ruth Nixon

    1. Thank you, Ruth! And Ruth’s mentioned part of my life not mentioned in the essay. After all my girls were grown, that guy I’d broken up with — he didn’t want to be a dad, but he kept coming back to check up on us and be part of our lives — and I were married, nine years ago. I can report he is still the love of my life — and a fantastic granddad to our eight grandchildren. And, as another side note: the protagonist in my Shadows mystery series, the most recent of which is Shadows of a Down East Summer, is considering single parent adoption … but her beau doesn’t want to be a father. Hmmm … wonder where I got that plot line?

  6. I knew the bare bones of your story Lea but not of its wonder. To grab your heart in your hand and take that risk – you are amazing and I’m glad you’re my friend!

  7. Wow! I would never have had the courage to be so possibly fool hardy. You are one lucky woman. I am so glad you got your daughters.

  8. You are one of the lucky ones that gambled, with the $5000, and it worked out okay. I suspect for every lucky one; there are 5 more that sadly lost out.

    1. William, although my actions were risky, they weren’t completely uneducated. I knew people who had adopted through the lawyer and facilitator I was working with. Thailand at that time was closed to agency adoptions, and this was the only option for prospective parents. (Thailand closed again only weeks after my daughter arrived home — which was why it took so long to get her adoption finalized.) So — risky, yes. Crazy — not totally. Would I advise others to do it — no. Today, there are much, much, better options, for singles and couples. And so many children waiting. Happy Adoption Month!

  9. I love this essay! It’s amazing in description, and I could almost see what was transpiring. You are a fantastic writer!

  10. Dear Lea,
    I’ve always been in awe of people who adopt kids, especially as the need is so great. I’m so glad that your first risky adoption came through – and now you have four wonderful kids from around the world, and as a single parent no less. Thanks for being my heroine and, I’m sure, for inspiring many others to adopt. The world is a better place because of people like you. Love, Bill

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